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Dancehall in the UK: Is it getting the recognition it deserves?

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Chukky (left) is a dancehall choreographer – it’s a genre which Sean Paul (right) has helped popularise

“I used to be in the back of my yard in Jamaica dancing barefoot for hours in the sun, waiting for days like this,” says dancehall choreographer Chukky.

He’s just been part of the choreography team for a big Christmas advert.

In the ad, for M&S, people’s jumpers make them dance – and a lot of the moves come from the Jamaican genre of dancehall.

But there was a bit of backlash as some people felt the advert was co-opting a genre to sell jumpers, without giving credit to its Jamaican origins.

BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Seani B – who plays a lot of Caribbean music on his show – posted on Instagram: “People in the mainstream need to know where this… comes from.”

He put up a video of the ad but replaced the original track (House of Pain’s Jump Around) with dancehall song Flair is in the Air by Ding Dong.

But once he realised that Chukky and other Jamaican dancehall choreographers were involved, he posted another video giving them props: “I’m smiling, I’m happy… but we gotta gatekeep the culture,” he said.

However, Chukky – real name Keyama Cammock – is happy to share the style of dance with whoever wants to be involved.

He teaches classes in London, where he says “everyone is welcome.”

And he says he borrows from other genres such as Afrobeat when he’s creating steps.

The signature move of the M&S advert is a shoulder roll – not a dancehall move – but Chukky says he was happy to incorporate it into the choreography.

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M&S

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M&S’s festive clothing ad features people in Christmas jumpers dancing to the song Jump Around by House of Pain

Chukky’s been dancing professionally for over 10 years – but since he moved to the UK two years ago, he’s seen the genre grow in popularity.

“When I first came in, there was no real scene for dancers like that.”

Now, he says: “Everyone comes because it’s knowledge. It’s fun. It’s a vibe. And people crave for these things.”

Along with dancehall moves being more popular, the music has also made its way into mainstream pop.

Rihanna’s Work, Drake’s Controlla and Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber’s I Don’t Care are some examples of this.

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Drake, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran have used dancehall influences in their music

A few acts – such as Sean Paul – successfully move between dancehall and pop music.

But he’s called out Drake in the past for not “giving more accolades” towards the Jamaican influence on songs such as One Dance.

He told Newsbeat earlier this year that a “language barrier” might put people off the more hardcore dancehall music, but over time he thinks the genre will be better recognised.

“One day we are going to get people logging on back to what we do,” he said.

“We just feel proud of that fact and we humbly wait for our turn to make the city burn again.”

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Chukky with the Bulletproof 876 crew

Chukky thinks the dancers do get credit from the outside – and he feels dancehall is having its moment now.

“I’ve been preparing myself for this for many years,” he says.

“Big up to every dancer in Jamaica that creates their steps.”

He adds: “We all aim to be choreographers… that would be shown on big international TV someday and we’ve managed to do that.”

Chukky and his dance crew Bulletproof 876 have also worked on a Levi’s advert and the music video for Nafe Smallz and Tory Lanez’s track Good Love.

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Chukky worked with Nafe Smallz and Tory Lanez in their music video

Rather than trying to block others from being influenced by dancehall, Chukky wants to see more unity within the community.

For him, it starts with more mutual respect between dancers and musicians.

“Remember, dancers [in dancehall] have bigger fan bases than a lot artists. So if we dance to your song, and it goes viral, and then everyone starts listening, it’s only right for you to give that credit.”

He says it’s something the Afrobeats community is good at doing.

He adds: “There’s no specific way – even sometimes just through posting on your Instagram as an artist can mean a lot to a dancer.”

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Arts go interactive during coronavirus lockdown

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The Royal Academy of Dance’s Silver Swans, pictured before the recent restrictions

As Britain begins its second week under strict conditions restricting movements and gatherings, arts organisations are getting creative in their attempts to interact with patrons.

The Getty Museum in the US, for example, has found a novel way for art lovers to engage with its collection.

Later this week the Royal Academy of Dance is launching a weekly series of online ballet classes, specifically tailored for the over-55s.

Theatres are now closed all across the country. But that doesn’t mean theatre lovers are being denied the joys of the communal experience.

Choirmaster Gareth Malone, meanwhile, is assembling a Great British Home Chorus to get us singing together even while we are apart.

Art imitating life

Based in Los Angeles, the J Paul Getty Museum is home to works by Rembrandt, Cezanne and hundreds of other world-renowned artists.

When the museum closed to the public on 14 March, its social media team started looking for ways to keep its audience entertained.

The answer lay in a Dutch Instagram account featuring elaborate recreations of works by Frida Kahlo, Rene Magritte and others.

The Getty put its own spin on the idea, inviting its followers to recreate artworks using three things lying around their houses.

Art fans jumped at the challenge, deploying everyday items, relatives and even pets to emulate works by Monet, Warhol and others.

One participant used coffee filters to make a mock-up of a ruff worn by one of El Greco’s subjects.

Another employed a shower cap and her own baby bump to replicate Raphael’s La donna gravida.

Bread, jam and a biscuit, meanwhile, were used to fashion an edible version of The Scream that certainly puts the munch into Edvard Munch.

“We are loving all your creative recreations,” the museum tweeted, exhorting its followers to “keep sharing”.

Keep dancing

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Royal Academy of Dance

Millions know Angela Rippon for the glamorous dance routine she performed with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1976.

Forty-four years on, the former newsreader is still championing the terpsichorean arts in her role as Royal Academy of Dance ambassador.

Since 2017, the HealthCheck UK presenter has been raising awareness for the RAD’s Silver Swans project, branded ballet classes aimed at the over-55s.

This week the RAD is putting those classes online in the hope they will encourage older audiences to “unleash their inner dancer”.

“It’s a series of exercises that anyone can do at any level, that you can do at home in a small personal space,” Rippon told BBC News.

“You’re not going to be flying across the room like Carlos Acosta – you can do most of them holding on to something solid.”

According to Rippon, though, it’s not just the body that gets a workout.

“You’re having to use your brain as well so it’s a mental as well as a physical exercise,” she explained.

“It makes you feel good physically, but it makes you feel good psychologically too.”

The first online tutorial goes online on Wednesday, with new classes released weekly over the next nine weeks.

All the world’s a stage

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The closure of the UK’s theatres and performing arts venues has left the industry mired in turmoil and uncertainty.

With its base shuttered indefinitely, though, the National Theatre has decided to make some of its older productions accessible to a wider audience.

From 2 April, some productions previously screened in cinemas will be put on YouTube for theatre lovers to watch free of charge.

They include the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden; adaptations of the novels Jane Eyre and Treasure Island; and a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night starring Tamsin Greig.

The Hampstead Theatre in north London is also putting some of its plays online, starting this week with its 2016 staging of Mike Bartlett’s Wild.

If recent TV dramas Belgravia and The English Game haven’t sated your Julian Fellowes cravings, meanwhile, a 2017 recording of his musical version of The Wind in the Willows can also be streamed for free.

Lisa Burger, the National’s executive director, said its “varied” programme meant there would be “something for everyone to enjoy from their own homes”.

“We will be streaming each production at the same time each week in order to recreate, where possible, the communal viewing experience,” she added.

Roxana Silbert, the Hampstead’s artistic director, said its own offerings over the next three weeks would give audiences “entertainment, connection and nourishment in a time of uncertainty and isolation”.

The show, they say, must go on – something that producer Robert Myles has taken to heart.

He and a group of actors are gathering every Thursday to live stream performed readings of Shakespeare’s Complete Works.

So far they have tackled The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew, with the first part of Henry VI to follow later this week.

Sing for your supper

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Self-isolation is proving no hindrance to Gareth Malone’s new project, an online response to the nationwide closure of communal rehearsal places.

More than 160,000 people took part in the first rehearsal last week on YouTube.

“It is amazing how many people have signed up,” said Malone, promising to create something “really wonderful and inspiring”.

Those who have got involved have extolled the virtues of being part of what is now a globe-spanning venture.

“Amazing how a bit of singing lifts my spirits,” wrote one participant, while another said they were “absolutely loving the choir”.

“This is a wonderful idea,” wrote another choir member. “Thank you so much Gareth and everyone who is making this possible.”

For Angela Rippon, organisations and initiatives like the ones above are in an ideal position to appeal to a largely housebound populace.

“This is a great opportunity to reach a wider audience than they ever have before,” she said.

“Millions of us are in lockdown in our own homes and have the chance to do things we never felt we could.”





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Elton John hosts star-studded iHeart Living Room coronavirus benefit concert

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Sir Elton John enjoyed a less than quiet night in on Sunday as he was digitally joined by quarantined stars from around the music world for a virtual coronavirus benefit concert.

The British pop legend hosted the iHeart Living Room Concert For America from his home in Los Angeles.

The online festival featured performances from the likes of Billie Eilish, Dave Grohl and Mariah Carey from their sofas and home studios.

It raised funds for two US charities.

Broadcasting from what he claimed was his only house without a piano, the Rocketman dug out his son’s keyboard for a rendition of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, and also serenaded a delighted Lizzo with an a capella snippet of her track Juice.

“Not long ago, there was another infectious disease that was ignored,” said Sir Elton.

“Day in and day out, the disease got worse, because we did nothing. Too many forgot about compassion and decency, and so millions and millions of people perished from Aids.

“But this time, we aren’t going to let that happen. So, stay home for the ones you love.”

The star was criticised online by some afterwards, however, for comparing the Covid-19 pandemic with the spread of Aids in the 1980s and 90s.

‘The host with the biggest heart’

Lady Gaga, who did not sing but did wear sunglasses indoors, described him as “the host with the biggest heart” during the one-hour televised special and told viewers to “find joy however you can” during this period of isolation, and to help their “local communities”.

Grammy winner Billie Eilish and her brother and musical partner Finneas O’Connell delivered a chilled out version of her breakout hit Bad Guy – precisely one year after its release.

Eilish, who was relaxing on the couch underneath a baseball cap, sang the track’s signature electronic synth line.

Just like opening act Alicia Keys before him, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl dedicated his song to the first responders and healthcare professionals who are treating people with coronavirus, which has taken 2,503 lives in the US so far and killed 1,228 people in the UK.

“I’d like to dedicate this song to all the people out there who are on the frontlines,” he said when introducing My Hero. “That are doing their best to get us through all of this.

“If you sing that last chorus every time you wash your hands, I think you might be in good shape,” joked Grohl.

Fellow rocker Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day said it was “an honour” to offer up an acoustic rendition of Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Camila Cabello and boyfriend singer Shawn Mendes are self-isolating together and gave fans a domestic dose of her recent hit My Oh My.

The US-Cuban singer even sang the DaBaby part – in the rapper’s absence – after briefly checking the lyrics on her phone.

Manband Backstreet Boys rolled back the years with a performance of their 1999 hit I Want It That Way.

Unlike in the glory days, however, the guys were singing separately, from their respective family homes (with kids popping in and out), and joined together in a WhatsApp/Zoom-style grid – essentially a retro pop version of your post-coronavirus work meetings, but with added Los Angeles swimming pool, courtesy of Nick Carter.

Aside from the host, the UK was represented by Sam Smith, who sang their ballad How Do You Sleep, snapping their fingers for added percussion.

“I don’t play an instrument,” admitted Smith, adding. “So this is just my voice… I hope that’s OK?”

Mariah Carey thanked her twins – aka “Dem Babies” – for “staying patient with me at home and not complaining too much”.

She also belted out her 1996 track Always Be My Baby alongside a keyboard player and some remotely placed backing singers, who were beamed in.

The show, which was broadcast on Fox TV and iHeart Radio in the US, raised funds for Feeding America and the First Responders Children’s Foundation.

The amount raised was not immediately revealed, but household goods giant Procter & Gamble gave $500,000 (£400,000), which was matched by Fox.

The event filled the gap in the schedule that was left when the iHeart Radio Music Awards were cancelled.

Meanwhile, James Corden is hosting a similar fundraiser from his garage on Monday, with Eilish, Dua Lipa and BTS among those due to join him remotely.

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Jack Monroe: Coronavirus cookery for the culinary clueless

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Do not be afraid to mix up your ingredients – that is the advice of food writer Jack Monroe, as we all make the most of our store cupboards during the coronavirus lockdown.

The cook, from Southend, Essex, has been sharing some top tips to help people who lack confidence in the kitchen.

The author is well-known for making the most of basic ingredients and says swapping around pulses and vegetables will still lead to a delicious meal.



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